Recently a pregnant mama came early to class and told me she was so miserable that she just started googling and calling places saying “do you have anything for me?”
So smart. Because when she remembered she didn’t have to deal with this alone and came to class, she found herself sitting next to someone who had felt the same feelings at the beginning of her pregnancy, crying constantly, and had gone on medication for a while.
She told me that just feeling less alone in her negative feelings changed everything. Experts say 4 out of 5 new moms experience negative feelings for the first two weeks after baby is born. The experience is often made worse by the feeling that this time is supposed to be the happiest time of our lives, as well as our fears that we will negatively affect our baby.
It was also smart of her to come to yoga specifically, because most Prenatal Yoga classes (every Ma Yoga class) starts with some form of meditation, and numerous studies have found that meditation can help prevent and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
If you have negative feelings that are hard to handle (if you’re a new mom and they go just about all day for more than 2 weeks, it’s considered post-partum depression), you should definitely talk to your doctor because you don’t have to keep feeling this way.
But even your doctor – if they’ve been keeping up on the latest studies (see #1 below) – might steer you toward meditation. Here are 5 ways just meditation (we’re not even talking about a yoga practice here) can help us avoid and release the blues:
1.) Meditation balances our hormones. When we have our baby, we also lose an entire organ, the placenta. When else does this happen in life? The body has to find normal again, and the process can be hard on the emotions. Both meditation as well as pranayama (breathing exercises) can help the body find homeostasis. According to the latest studies:
– Meditation boosts endorphins – the “runner’s high” – which reduce pain and increase love.
– Meditation increases GABA – a mood-stabilizing neurotransmitter that is known to be low in people with panic disorders and addictions
– Meditation increases DHEA – a hormone that reduces depression, improves memory and strengthens the immune system
– Meditation increases melatonin – a hormone produced in the brain especially before sleep to allow for restful sleep.
2.) Meditation helps us see the difference between our thoughts and reality. People with anxiety are often disturbed by anxious thoughts and unproductive worries. Instead of getting lost in them, meditators often generate an automatic response that says “that’s just a thought”, and are able to move on more easily.
In a study published in JAMA by psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, people who were taught meditation with stress reduction reported far greater improvement than those who learned stress management techniques alone.
3.) When meditation includes a gratitude practice, happiness can go up 25%. OK, I know that sounds stupid but we’re talking Western Science terms here. Anyway, we know that happy people practice gratitude, but a study by Dr. Robert Emmons (author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier) showed that the reverse is true as well: when we practice gratitude, we get happier.
When I had my baby, I started grabbing a notebook when I found a moment to meditate. First would come all the things I needed to remember to do, and I’d write them down just to get them out of my head.
But after the meditation, I would write down some things that happened the day before that I was grateful for. For instance today I wrote that my 7 year old wanted to play wrestle and roll down a grassy hill with me over and over. And I received a call from a mom who wants help finding her next career.
Just remember, gratitude is a practice – we must write our say or do something that expresses it, not just think about it, to receive its benefits. When we shift our focus to the good stuff flowing toward us from the universe, we start to notice it more throughout the day; we becoming more open to receiving; we feel more grateful, and we find ourselves in an uplifting, life-embracing loop.
4.) Meditation helps us experience our deepest longings. According to yoga, in the space of awareness, consciousness arises within us in the form of desire. Tantric yoga philosophy teaches that desire is not something to detach from or suppress, but rather an empowering evolutionary impulse to open to and align with.
When we discover what we want, whether it’s to call an old friend or start a mom business, we feel more hopeful that things can change. New studies show that hope (and the latest – hope therapy) can help us fight depression and lead to a higher satisfaction with life.
5.) Meditation helps us feel connected to each other. When we start to feel separate, it’s easy to compare and come out lacking: she’s so happy, she looks great, I don’t have what it takes.
But when we focus on our breath and/or our awareness, we are focusing on something that is the same in all of us. This brings us to a place of connection, and we start to remember the other ways we are all the same: We are all doing the best we can. We all love our children. And you might even get a hit of these now and again: we are all powerful beyond measure. Life is pure bliss. I am love.
And if these benefits of meditation aren’t enough for you to inspire you to do it for yourself – just remember your little one will be learning about meditation whenever you do it!
Need some help creating, implementing, and/or maintaining your meditation practice? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know, and we can talk about different ways to make it happen for YOU!